10/25/09 - Tony Newman

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance discusses major changes in media coverage of the drug war and the DPA's forthcoming conference in New Mexico + Dr. Joel Hochmans advice to parents of drug users

Audio file

Cultural Baggage, October 25, 2009

Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.


It's not only inhumane it is really fundamentally Un-American... "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR"

My Name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs - legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.


Dean Becker: Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Here in just a little bit we are going to bring in our guest Mr. Tony Newman. I think he is Director of Media for the Drug Policy Alliance. But first I wanted you to hear this message.


Joel Hochman: This is Doctor Joel Hochman the Executive Director of the National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain with guidance for the parents of potential overdose victims. Do not pretend that your child will never be involved in drugs. Assume that drugs are everywhere and will always be available.

Supply side strategies have never succeeded and will never succeed. Make sure that your kids are factually educated about every drug. If you misinform them or give them propaganda, your credibility and authority with them is over.

Share your personal experience and knowledge with them. Do not be a know-it-all, because you don’t. Accept the fact that they may be smarter and more knowledgeable about drugs than you. If you are going to keep medications in your home, keep them absolutely locked up: no exceptions.

Do not expect that they will not try to defeat the security. Be informed about the symptoms and signs of intoxication and/or overdose. Have an overdose plan. Know what to do, who to call, and what to say. Do not blame the drugs. Your kids took them, they didn't take your kid.

Expect that your kids will experimenters - you probably did. Make sure that they know what to expect and what to do if they get in trouble using a drug. Tell them you really love them, will miss them the rest of your life if they kill themselves and that you would really appreciate it if they don't.

Don't do anything to convince them that it's too risky to tell you the truth.Give every child in your home a copy of my advice to them and discuss it with them.


Dean Becker: Alright. Dr. Joel Hochman. He came in studio with us a few months back and has some very good common sense advice on how to handle the thought that your children might do drugs and given the current circumstance where they are made by untrained chemists and sold by armed gangsters I think the likelihood is even higher than it would be if we were to end this drug prohibition.

A group who has been working for years if not decades to educate and motivate good folks like you, my dear listener, has a conference forthcoming in Albuquerque early next month and here to talk about that and all the news breaking across America, in fact around the world, in regards to this drug war, we have Mr. Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance. Hello, Tony.

Tony Newman: Hello, Dean. Thanks for having me on.

Dean Becker: Well, Tony, thank you so much. You know, I was alluding to the fact that the news is chock full of news about mostly marijuana these days but about the overall drug war itself. It seems you can’t get away from it on the broadcast media. Your thoughts?

Tony Newman: Dean, you are totally right. I have been working at the Drug Policy Alliance for ten years. I know you have been working on this for many, many, many, many years. I have never seen anything like this.

Just this week the Obama administration came out and said we are going to stop this policy of harassing medical marijuana patients and their caregivers in states that have approved medical marijuana laws. This is a break from the Bush administration and the Clinton administration.

That news made front page newspapers around the world were covering this, thousands of stories about it. And that is just one of many, many things we can talk about and it’s an exciting time.

Dean Becker: It is. I want to kind of just give a quick list of some of the stories. Yesterday I caught a one hour special around the noon hour here in the central time zone and I think it was called something like Mellowing to Medical Marijuana. And they had various you know pro and con people but mostly everybody was saying, eh, it’s time to readjust what we’re doing here. And I think that’s the most important part is that we are at least looking at a situation, right, Tony?

Tony Newman: The debate is happening like it has never happened before. You mentioned the CNN special. Today on George Stephanopolis has a show on ABC, This Week, they were talking about is it time to legalize drugs – whole range of guests from a conservative columnist George Will to Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal Caucus. Everyone is starting to talk about this.

You know and it’s time. I mean the drug war as you, Dean; your show has been incredible. You have been covering this for years. It touches just so many aspects of our lives; from the violence in Mexico, thousands of people being killed because of drug prohibition. We have a overdose death… there is an overdose epidemic – people dying from from you know over overdose deaths. We have the medical marijuana issue.

People starting to say should we tax and regulate marijuana to both help our states that are you know short on cash right now. I mean this issue is everywhere and it is time that the debate does happen. And not only you know is it all over the television. Our friend at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Peter Mosca had a huge op-ed in the Washington Post today about this. And it is time for this dialogue and this conversation to be happening.

Dean Becker: Right. I think it was Peter Moscos of LEAP. His piece in today’s Washington Post, it was titled up: If it’s on the shelves, it’s off the street. It is out of the hands of the criminals is what is what he is really getting too, huh?

Tony Newman: And Dean, you know you have been talking about this for so long. I mean, look, there is drug news that happens and there’s problems that happen with drugs and substance abuse but then there’s problems of prohibition.

These thousands of deaths that are taking place in mexico… it’s not the plant marijuana that is causing all these thousands of deaths. It is because it is illegal and because it is illegal it is worth more than gold and people will sell it and now well you see the violence that happens from it.

So you know whether it’s the violence in Mexico, whether it’s the fact that we are spending all this money. We arrest seven hundred and fifty thousand people a year on marijuana possession. Imagine those resources. Imagine those lives that are ruined and the plant is as available as it has ever been before so you know the good news is that the dialogue is happening.

You know it’s an interesting thing if I can talk about one thing. You know a couple of weeks ago on the Today show there was a piece called Stiletto Stoners and it’s about how you know there’s this growing group of professional, professional women who like to end their day with taking a hit of a joint instead of a martini and it’s more mainstream than it has ever been.

You see it on the Today show they are talking about it. The original story was in Marie Claire magazine. It was on the cover of Fortune magazine. So it’s in some ways it’s more mainstream than it’s ever been.

And then the flipside is that there is still all these marijuana arrests happening. We are still arresting record numbers of people. Seven hundred and fifty people were arrested last year for marijuana possession. So we have both these things taking place simultaneously.

The encouraging news is that the debate is happening. More and more people whether it’s elected officials or you know you know a whole range of people challenging the drug prohibition but so our job is not done because even though people are talking about it the war on drugs continues to crank out and arrest people and and we need to keep fighting that.

Dean Becker: Alright my friends, you are listening to the Cultural Baggage show on the Drug Truth Network. My name is Dean Becker. We are speaking with Mr. Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance and we just actually picked up a new TV station going to carry some of our stuff in Ventura, California so we’re up to seventy today and I am proud of that number.

I am proud of the millions of pairs of ears that tune in to our programs and see our videos every year. And I am proud of the fact that we are indeed making progress. You know Tony the things I hear these pundits these hosts of these TV programs and they almost get to the heart of this matter these days.

They are getting very close but the thing they don’t ever talk about is more specifically the harms of prohibition. They touch upon it but they never really drill down and see that it could indeed be changed. Your thoughts on that?

Tony Newman: Well I think you are right but I think things are changing. You know I remember conventional wisdom has always been that that elected officials can never talk about this issue. You know especially democrats cant touch the drug war with a ten foot pole.

But you know we see Obama this week saying we are going to stop harassing sick patients in states that have approved these laws. There were thousands of stories the vast majority are totally giving kudos to Obama for this.

Just this, last couple weeks in New York we changed the Rockefeller Drug Law, some of the harshest drug laws in the country, people long meant for minimum sentences for small amounts of drugs. The Rockefeller laws are really what kicked off this whole mandatory minimum thing. Senator, I’m sorry, Governor Patterson who championed the changes of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, they just went into effect this week.

Fifteen hundred people who were behind bars are now eligible for re-sentencing. Judges are now going to have discretion. Both president Obama and Governor Patterson got nothing but love and kudos when they made these changes. Earlier this year governor Schwarzeneggar, it’s not only democrats, governor Schwarzeneggar governor of California said maybe it’s time to have an open debate about taxing and regulating marijuana.

All three of these elected officials had no negative backlash and on the opposite, it was all people saying thank you for saying this, thank you for making these changes so I do believe that we are starting to see a change.

I believe, you mentioned these pundits, I think we are quickly, we have been working on this for thirty years you know this war on drugs I think we are going to see rapid changes where more and more people say you know what we are not going to advocate this failed drug war ad drug prohibition that does not work.

I think every single week we are going to start seeing more and more voices saying the time is now to end this madness. We need to tax and regulate these drugs. We need to stop incarcerating people in a jail cell because they have a drug problem. We need to stop prohibiting this thing and ending you know turning the drug. The drugs are always used.

People have been using marijuana for the last forty years even though we have been trying to eliminate it. The consequences are this black market, this violence, these thousands of deaths, these incarcerations, destroying families. I think the tide is changing very, very rapidly and I am encouraged.

Dean Becker: Well, you know out in California the what is it the assistant county attorney David Berger was talking about the fact they need to bust all those eight hundred dispensaries in Los Angeles and even talking about the fact he presumes that they are buying cartel weed, that it’s infected with pesticides and it’s being sold to sick people. Your thoughts on that?

Tony Newman: Look, marijuana has been used for thirty years despite this massive war. The fact that the fact that sick patients, California led the way by saying we want to provide sick people with their medicine and they did that, thirteen other states have followed. We now have the federal government saying we’re going to respect that, I think that’s a very positive thing.

People say look sometimes some people going in there and they may not you know you know actually be sick. They may not have cancer or they may be trying to scam the system. You know what? Anyone who wants marijuana can get it. They were getting it before, they can get it now.

The bottom line is we are starting to see now regulation. We need to continue to have a set up a system where we regulate it and we’re showing that you know what the sky doesn’t fall. In California it we’re doing that and it’s actually shown that the society can exist and we can get some control of this thing. I think what has happened out in California is a good thing.

With all these victories of course there are going to be some district attorneys and people who try to fight back and try to say we’re going to you know we have to amp up the war and all this stuff but I think you know the tide is turning.

It’s no doubt what direction we’re going in and I think you know I want to say, Dean, you have been working on this issue for so many years. What you have done week in and week out doing all the stories. When the drug czar makes claims that are not true, you bring it out.

When you challenge this logic of putting people in a jail cell for this you point out that marijuana is not causing all these deaths in Mexico but it’s because of prohibition all of the seeds you have been planting week in and week out for all these years we are now starting to see the fruit of all the stuff you’ve done.

Dean Becker: Wow, Tony, thank you for that and it has been with the strong and continuing support of good people like you and others at the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, NORML, and my band of brothers at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition that we have created a spark.

We maybe didn’t set the fire but we have been putting out a lot of sparks over the years. And I thank you for that, Tony. We are just over eight years now of the Drug Truth Network. They started us off at every other Saturday at midnight I think it was and nobody died. They moved us to every Thursday at eleven pm, nobody die. Then they started putting us in to prime time and…

Tony, you had a great piece in the Huffington Post just earlier this week where you were talking about that situation where folks are realizing that Obama and governor Patterson in reversing the uh much of the Rockefeller Drug Laws were doing good things and as you say they weren’t beat about the head and shoulders, they weren’t castigated. In fact, they were praised. Perhaps it’s a good example for other politicians as we move forward.

Tony Newman: I really do think the time has come. I think that people know that our forty years of incarcerating people and ruining lives and spending all the you know kicking down doors and spending all this money is not working and you know what? The politicians who stand up and say this is not working, we not want another approach, they are going to get love and respect and that is a very encouraging thing.

And you know all your listeners; there are so many aspects of this. If you believe that people should get treatment instead of jail sentences if they have drug problem, you should be supporting Drug Truth Network. If you believe that we need to help reduce the number of people who are overdosing and do common sense approaches when someone overdoses usually they are around other people but people are afraid to call 9-1-1 which would save their life cause they are afraid of getting arrested.

If you want to save lives, you should be supporting Drug Truth Network. If you think that sick people should be having access to their medicine and it’s crazy for the government to be knocking down doors and harassing cancer and AIDS patients, you should be supporting Drug Truth Network.

And Dean, you mentioned you know it is one thing, one thing we need to do is support stations and media like Dean Becker and what you are doing but we also need to get involved and get engaged.

I am very excited. We are having an enormous conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in November. If you are listening to this, you should join us not only. You know we don’t only need to read about this on the front page of the paper, we have got to get involved and make the solution and there is going to be a thousand of us as Dean you mentioned, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is going to be at the conference.

Governor Johnson, former governor Johnson, New Mexico was one of the first elected officials to say the drug war is failing; we need alternatives, will be there. Governor Richardson of New Mexico who is there now is going to be there. We are going to have elected officials. we are going to have students. We are going to have you know treatment providers.

Join the movement. Come to New Mexico. Let’s make some solutions. Let’s support Drug Truth Network. This is our time. I have been doing this for ten years. Dean has been doing this longer that me. We have never seen a time like this. The debate is happening. It is time for us to get involved, make some solutions. Support voices like Dean Becker and the radio show. Come out to New Mexico. Make some friends and make some solutions.

Dean Becker: Exactly right, my friend. You know we have over the years I mean the drug war is an incremental thing. It started out as somebody’s supposed good idea and it eventually over the decades morphed and molded to the point where it reached the tragedy that it really has become. And it is now slowly morphing away from that tragedy towards something more rational and logical I think.

But we really could use your help, dear listener. We could use your expertise, your acumen, your abilities to awaken and embolden others because I think the data, the information, necessary to change this is at hand. It is here but we have to put it to work. We have to be able to convince our politicians that they can move from this ancient situation, right, Tony?

Tony Newman: I mean, Dean, here is the amazing thing about our issue: the war on drugs and both the problems of drugs and the war on drugs touches every family. Every listener has someone in their family who has struggled with substance abuse.

Everyone, you know there’s some people who had good experiences with drugs, whether it’s winding down at the end of the day smoking a joint or having a bottle of wine with friends or have had you know have had benefits from prescription drugs.

Drugs are in our society. They are not going away. They will continue to be with us. But we have to figure out how to live with these drugs in a way that causes the least amount of harm. This touches all of our families. This touches all of us.

And the good news it that there’s people who are getting involved and figuring out how we are going to deal with this in a sane way. We know the answer is not putting people in a cage and locking them up. We know the answer is not spending forty billion dollars with this utopia that we are going to have a drug free society.

The time is now. We need people to get involved. We need people to support media like Dean Becker and Drug Truth Network who have been carrying this issue for week after week, times when it feels like no one is listening, where we are fighting against this huge forty billion dollar a year war on drugs.

How much effect are we having? Dean, pounding away week after week and now we see the dialogue and the conversation trickling all the way up to the president of the United States saying you know what? I am going to stop arresting and harassing sick patients.

We are having victories. It is encouraging, we still have work to do and we need to continue that. To get involved, go to our website drugpolicy.org. I work at the Drug Policy Alliance. Go over to our website. Find out. Come to New Mexico with us. Support the media that has been telling these stories week in and week out and I know that we are on the cusp of a making a [ ] change.

Dean Becker: I have been to now three of these Drug Policy Alliance conferences and I want to tell you this is not just a, you know big morning session and a you know one other panel or something. You have those plenary sessions I guess they are called and then it breaks put and you have got a half dozen.

You have got a dozen panels dealing with needle exchange and harm reduction, marijuana and law enforcement and media and on and on. If you have got a niche, if you have an area of expertise and you would like to improve upon it, you can improve upon it there. You will meet with experts in that field who will provide information that will help embolden you and get you out there doing what you can.

Alright we are speaking with Mr. Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance. He is joining us here on Cultural Baggage. Also going to be on this week’s Century of Lies to talk about this drug war. And Tony, I am proud of the fact that of the progress we have made…

You know when I first started this, these shows eight years ago I worried to be honest with you, I did – that the front door could get kicked in by either the cops or the cartels because I live in Houston and I am very close to the cartels and the cops here have been known to run rampant from time to time but it’s becoming safer. It’s becoming hell a badge of honor to be a drug reformer. Your thought?

Tony Newman: I think you’re right. I think see that more and more people are becoming very comfortable you know for a long time for a long time when we were saying this stuff we felt like we were speaking into the wind.

As you said, when you go on, when you watch This Week with George Stephanopolis and you have the whole spectrum of guests from the conservative to liberal and I think it’s going to get the momentum is going to pick up week after week. I think more and more people… I mean how you really going to justify spending forty billion dollars a year locking – we have more people incarcerated than any country in the world.

We you know and drugs are on every single corner in this society so it’s not like it’s having any impact. We see the deaths in Mexico, it’s tragic. We have you know fifteen thousand people have died since they have amped up this war on drugs in Mexico with the current president and the last couple of years, none of this is working.

The good thing is there actually are common sense solutions that can be done. If someone has a drug problem, we need to get them help and get them treatment. If they don’t have a drug problem then we need to leave them alone. But we cannot you know think that a gun and a cage is going to solve this problem.

We can come together as families, as communities, as our elected officials, as doctors, as law enforcement and we can figure out how to deal with these problems in a way that keeps families together and reduces the amount of harm that’s happening.

Dean Becker: Well, Tony, I want you to, folks might not have had a pencil and paper handy while ago when you were pointing out where they could learn more about this forthcoming conference in Albuquerque. Why don’t you kind of outline that again?

Tony Newman: Yeah, like I said, there is going to be a thousand people from all over the country, all over the world, actually coming in to this. They should go to the drugpolicy.org, that is our website.

As Dean said, not only will you learn and meet with all the leading people whether it’s from law enforcement or all the researchers or people on the front lines providing treatment to people. You will meet people. It is also a great gathering, it is fun. You make life long connections.

I mean the time is now. We see the momentum is happening. Be a part of this movement. Come join us, it will be inspirational. You will have your mind expanded. You will have your heart expanded. And this is an exciting time you know I’m very, very, very thrilled about all of this.

Dean Becker: OK and again, that website is drugpolicy.org. Tony, I want to talk about this you know as I said it’s kind of becoming a badge of honor. I get a lot of kudos and respect from people I meet once they realize the work I do or recognize the voice and you know, oh you’re that guy on the radio.

And I guess the what I’d like to say is that the opportunity is there right now for you the listener to be able to tell your grandchildren that you didn’t just sit silently and watch this, that you recognize the failure, the horror of this and that you did your part to help bring it to an end the time is ripe.

I don’t know if it’s going to be a month or if it’s going to be another ten years but it is really up to you. You know how many people are willing to pick up this boulder and carry it another inch up the hill, right, Tony?

Tony Newman: That’s right you and Dean what we always have to remember is that once talking about this, this isn’t something that is just some kind of theoretical debate. This is real people’s lives. We know that doing this work for all of these years.
We know people who have spent ten, fifteen, twenty years in a cage because they have a substance abuse problem. We know mothers that have lost loved ones from an overdose death. We know that people who are getting killed whether it’s on the Mexico border or in our cities around here because of failed prohibition.

These are real issues. They touch real people’s lives. And thank god there actually are some solutions that we can do. We can reduce overdose deaths by doing common sense. It should never be a crime to call 9-1-1. if you are witnessing an overdose, you should be able to call 9-1-1, save that person’s life without fear of the cops coming.

If someone is sick and has AIDS or cancer and needs their medicine they should have access to that and we’re winning that battle. More and more people know that we can’t put someone in a cage just because they have a substance abuse problem. It doesn’t make sense on the family it doesn’t make economically treatment is cheaper than a jail cell.

All because their solutions and answers for all of these problems, that the information is out there. What we need is the political will, the might. We need people to actually care about this. We need people to write checks and support Drug Truth Network and the people have been saying this year in and year out. We need you to come to New Mexico.

The Drug Policy Alliance, the conference. Come to our conference, be a part of this and I promise you you will have an amazing experience and every single week it, this year 2009 has been the most amazing year. Every single month there’s new things happening and new voices coming out saying this is not working.

Just this year three former presidents of Latin American, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia said the war on drugs is failing we need new solutions. I mentioned governor Schwarzeneggar in California, Governor Patterson in New York saying this is not working. We need to have an open debate.

It is getting more and more mainstream and think it is only going to build. But with all that success there is still record number of marijuana arrests happening, seven hundred and fifty thousand fellow Americans busted for marijuana for possession. We you know all the momentum is not a guarantee for victory. We need to get organized.

We need to come to this conference. We need to… we need this we need to embrace and thank and the elected officials who do the right thing and we need to get out the stick and hurt the elected officials that continue to scapegoat and point fingers and demonize our fellow citizens.

Dean Becker: You bet. Tony, I tell you what. I appreciate you are going to hang with us for the Century of Lies show. Name that drug…


It’s time to play Name That Drug by its Side Effects

Headache, low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, unexpected sleepiness, nausea, excess perspiration, trouble controlling your muscles, diskinesia, hallucinations, uncontrollable gambling urges, compulsive eating and incrased sex drive.

Time’s up!
The answer from Boehinger Engalheim laboratories, Mirapex for restless leg syndrome


Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the Abolitionists Moment

We must stand. We must speak. We must demand an end to the madness of drug war. This ninety-four year old prohibition of non fortune five hundred drugs must be brought to an end.

This prohibition has no basis, no dignity, no embrace of reality, no reason to exist. As did the abolitionist stand against slavery and alcohol prohibition, so too must we stand for truth and reality itself. Do your part, join forces with other abolitionists, please visit end prohibition.org. Do it for the children.


[pot stinks song]

Dean Becker: Ah yes, it must take a million tons of pot to supply America and yet we’re afraid of it for some reason. Flowers, I don’t know. OK, we are going to wrap it up. As always I remind you that because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag, please, be careful.


To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.